Mainstream crazy

August 11, 2017 § 17 Comments

When the New York Times is giving out advice about how to commute to work, it’s time for me to find another niche hobby. Yep, that venerable institution whose motto is “All the news that’s fit to print” has taken to printing news about bicycle commuting. Click here to find out their recommendations for how a beginner can successfully commute by bike.

Once you’ve mastered the NYT intro course, you can proceed to Wanky’s Advanced Commuting Course, below.

  1. Deck your halls. NYT advises lights if you ride in the dark. Wanky advises riding with lights everywhere, all the time. Cagers will avoid you only if they see you, and nothing screams “Lunatic on a bicycle!” like fourteen lights blazing in all directions.
  2. Spot the nutballs. Once you have mastered pedaling, you need to master nutball spotting. On the Peninsula, our resident dingleberry is Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr., a small-fry palm frond manager. Nutballs are often seen driving mid-grade German kiddie haulers, and they have it in for you. Learn to spot them by their chrome domes, tiny heads barely peeking over the steering wheel, and their erratic driving. Once spotted, take immediate evasive action.
  3. Cuss practice. Every once in a while twice a day you will need to communicate forcefully with the public. Practice, practice, practice.
  4. Carbon. NYT recommends sturdy, dependable, practical bikes with bells and fenders. That is ridiculous. Dress for your commute like it’s the Tour de France or, more importantly, the Saturday ride. Matchy-matchy shoelaces on your Giro Empires, yo. And make sure you’re riding 100% carbon that is pure carbon and made of carbon.
  5. Hand signal. NYT talks about hand signals as if there were more than one.
  6. Strava. Mere mortals commute. If you didn’t KOM a heavily congested segment replete with pedestrians and moving vans on the way to work, it didn’t happen.
  7. Race numbers. Always commute with a race number sticking out from your seatpost or top tube. Better yet, pin up both sides of your aero commuting skinsuit. Extra points for shoe covers and aero TT helmet.
  8. Commute recap. Rehearse your Amazing Commuting Dominator story in your head so that when you get to work you can regale everyone with the incredible feats you performed on a bike whereas all they did after waking up was get fat.
  9. Jaunty cycling cap. Mandatory apres-commute gear for hanging out around the water cooler as you execute #8 above.
  10. Raw celery. Crack out a stick of this calorie-free, nutrient-free, tasteless and waterlogged vegetable, and gnaw on it while executing #8 above. [Must begin with “I’m famished.”]

END

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Heartbreak Hotel

August 9, 2017 § 38 Comments

With one lap to go I was a few minutes from achieving the only thing I have ever desired in life, that is a victory at our local training crit a/k/a Telo.

The field was a mishmash of gizzards, car parts, tree roots, defective Morton-Thiokol O-rings, broken razor blades, bald tires, and sunken galleons on the Spanish Main, as the pack had disintegrated shortly after re-entry, leaving only Frexit, Head Down James, Hair, and me in three-man-one-robot breakaway.

With seven laps to go, Frexit had urged me “Easy, easy!” as we came through Turn 4, which in bikeracespeak means “Ouchy!” So I waited a lap and attacked, shedding my unwelcome partners in an honest effort to toss them onto the garbage pile of discarded racers.

My hands were tied. If I sat in the break until the finish I would certainly get fourth. If I attacked I would [certainly – .0000001%] get fourth. So I had to go with the percentage shot.

Five laps to go and the gap held steady.

Four laps to go and I started pulling away.

Three laps to go and they clawed some of it back.

Two laps to go and it held at ten seconds.

One lap to go they were eight seconds back. Dreams of victory danced through my windshield. A lifetime of groveling was about to be rewarded with a few seconds swallowing a deep draught of the elixir of victory. Repeated beatings at the hands of unpleasant people was about to result in the bootheel landing on their neck instead of mine. Revenge would be sweeter than a diabetic dessert.

I rehearsed my victory speech, remembering to thank the little people who had made me who I am, thanking my parents, my deceased dog Fletcher, Phil who sold me my first bike, Fields, and then moving on to my wife, children, and a brief explanation of the dedication and hard work it had taken to reach what to the casual observer looked like an overnight success.

My speech, however, failed to account for the bitter hatred that Head Down James felt deep within his soul. Even though I had mentored him as a beginning cyclist by shouting epithets at him, screaming at him to lift up his fucking head, and trying to intimidate him at every turn, he apparently had forgotten all those little kindnesses and was now hell bent on revenge.

With Head Down James preferring to drag Frexit and Hair up to me so they could smear him in the sprunt rather than seeing me walk off with a glorious, life-altering victory that I would mockingly hold over his head for all time, he buried himself and closed the gap with only a few hundred yards left to go. Head Down James knew that the ignominy of being dropped out of his own breakaway and then beaten by a solo move at the hands of the leakiest, braggiest, un-cagiest racer in America would put paid to his professional athletic career. Frexit also knew that a Wanky defeat before his assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans Velo would cause an emotional collapse from which he might never recover. Hair didn’t care; he wasn’t getting higher than second no matter what and he knew it.

Head Down James’s effort was enough. Aaron and Frexit buried him, and worse, they buried me. I praised them insincerely afterwards, congratulated them while secretly wishing that each were slowly beheaded by a rusty table saw, and pedaled home, crushed.

And although you may not give a damn, my dear, tomorrow is another day.

END

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French beast connection

August 7, 2017 § 18 Comments

A great way to become a better rider is to ride with people who are better than you. It won’t make you faster or stronger or smarter or more successful in racing. However, with the clever use of an iPhone or GoPro you will be able to snap pics and show them to your friends on Facegag, upload them to The Stravver and etcetera, proving that you are heroic and tough enough to ride with Titanic Crusher ergo you are almost as good as Titanic and if you only had more hours to train and dope to ingest and motors to install you would be as good as he.

It’s important that the footage not show how Titanic Crusher is barely breathing whereas you sound like a medicinal advertisement for sleep apnea.

The first time I saw Frexit was on the New Pier Ride. He was humbly pedaling along in an ugly bicycle outfit trying to fit in among all of the perfectly attired, matchy-match profamateurs on the Tuesday morning preenfest. He was doing a terrible job of it because despite his ugly outfit he had a smooth pedal stroke, a relaxed demeanor despite being squeezed in the middle of an idiot sandwich, and worst of all, he was smiling as if a morning ride with friends was for enjoyment rather than for huge expressions of serious seriousness topped off with seriousity.

Before we hit Pershing, the life and death battle had begun as the idiots jostled for position, which in the South Bay does not only means “place where you can be nearest the front with the smallest risk of having to be on it,” but also “place from which you can solicit new riders to join your fake race clubteam.”

Velo Club LaGrange, a historically fake clubteam, had won the last several recruitment contests, and even as they jockeyed for position I came up hard on the inside, threw an elbow, and began the finishing sign-up sprint.

“What’s your name?”

“Evens.”

“That’s weird. Did someone add an ‘s’ by mistake when you were born?”

“No, I am French.”

“What’s your last name?”

“Stievenart,” he said.

“Oh,” I nodded. “So you’re actually Belgian.”

He laughed as we hit the bottom of Pershing. “You should join Big Orange,” I said. “We are a bunch of dorks also know as Team Lizard Collectors or The Asphalt Magnet Gang, but we will reimburse your entry … ” I couldn’t finish because he rode away. And away. And away.

At the end of the ride I offered to wash his bike if he would join Team Lizard Collectors, and he agreed. Thus began Frexit’s association with a club that would be shameful for him but glorious for us.

It turned out that Frexit had won a bunch of French national time trial championships, and had won a big stage race several times called Tour Encaisseur des Lézards and was training for the 24 Hours of Le Mans bike race. Frexit won that race last year, by the way, destroying his competition by a huge margin as he came in first among over 3,800 insane people.

In the process, Frexit became known as a terror on two wheels, riding crazy distances at crazy speeds, and more importantly, showing up at our local training crit to give us all a chance to take selfies with him and sit on his wheel for half a lap or so. In 2017 he returns to Le Mans as defending insane person and with the twin goals of winning again and cracking the mythical 900km mark over a twenty-four hour period. Naturally, we’ve been helping him at Telo by offering up copious quantities of fresh seal pelts for repeated clubbing.

Best of all, you can be part of Evens’s 2017 Le Mans quest on Wednesday, August 16, when he will be out at Westchester Parkway doing a tune-up ride from 6:00 AM until about 5:00 PM. In order to simulate the attacks and surges of the race, Frexit has kindly invited other cyclists to come out for any period of time to ride with him and spice things up. It should be about as fun as having rusty nails pounded up into your gums, maybe more.

But as long as you get a few selfies to show to your friends, it will all be worth it. See you there. Briefly.

END

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Twisted, sister

August 5, 2017 § 46 Comments

Doping is twisted. And I’ve never understood why I’ve been so conflicted about it. On the one hand, I don’t care what you do, what you put in your body, or how you live your life. Drugs are great and pound through our veins from the minute we get up until the minute we sleep, and then after we sleep, too.

Everyone dopes, and they dope to gain an advantage, they dope to fix shit, they dope to get high, they dope to get through the mid-day lunchtime food coma. They coffee dope, alcohol dope, etc. etc. and etc.

Bike racer doping has been near and dear to my heart for decades. I’ve known so many dopers. Raced so many dopers. Been friends with so many dopers. Inspired by them, learned from them, respected them.

But at the same time, the notion of doping to beat someone in a bike race has always turned my stomach. Dopers are lame. Like I said, it’s a twisted topic.

There aren’t many things that can make me give up a fun day of bicycling, especially a Saturday like today, when the roads are littered with so many glistening baby seal pelts begging to be clubbed. Especially, I wouldn’t give up a ride for a book. I don’t think I’ve ever forgone a ride for a read, although I’ve dropped countless books onto the floor in order to hustle out the door and pedal. I love to read but I love to bike more.

I can’t remember the exact chronology of all this, so I’ll make it up. There I was, blogging about doping or something and some dude I’d never heard of named Mark Johnson asked me if I wanted a free copy of his book on doping. “Sure,” I emailed back, knowing that after a couple of pages, if that much, I’d toss it in the Shitty Book Pile and move on. How did I know I’d toss it in the Shitty Book Pile?

Because it was a book about cycling called “Spitting in the Soup,” and books about cycling are always terrible. Cyclist enthusiasts can’t write, and this blog is rededicated to that proposition on a daily basis. Cyclists can’t write for the simple reason that people in general can’t write. It is hard, takes talent, practice, and a brain. Once in a rare while someone will drop down from heaven and write well, but the rest of us basically suck.

When Mark’s book arrived I noted that it had a very nice inscription. Free book + nice inscription + cool postcard of Sean Kelly = I won’t trash your book immediately, maybe. I shoved it atop the Unread Pile and kept plowing through Yasunari Kawabata’s “Yuki Guni,” a very boring re-read about some old dude and a geisha somewhere up in the Tohoku. The great thing about reading Japanese Nobel laureates is that even though I had to look up every third word, I got huge mileage flashing it in airports as people nudged each other and muttered under their breath.

But back to Mark’s Unread-But-Destined-For-The-Shitty-Pile book. I picked it up and started reading. It was pretty disappointing. For starters, he had a degree in English literature. I hate English lit majors because they actually know about writing. The only thing worse than reading a shitty book about cycling (which is all of them) is reading a really good book about cycling, because it makes me feel even more inferior and inept than I already do.

A few pages in and I couldn’t believe my good fortune, or was it my bad fortune? Good fortune at a stunningly well written book, bad fortune at realizing how much better it was than my own daily fare of verbal gruel. Then it got even better or even worse. Mark’s a fine writer, so yeah, fuck that dude. But he’s also someone who has thought deeply about doping, then poured an incredible amount of time and effort into researching this complex and twisted subject.

Unlike the Paul Kimmage method of writing, where the author takes a gentle and refined tool such as a sledgehammer and pounds the shit out of everything nearby until the finished product is ground up into fine meal, Mark started with the intellectual concepts that underlay the Olympic movement, amateurism, and the concept that underlies sport, competitive performance.

With an astounding array masterful brushstrokes that tie in the Industrial Revolution, British public schools, the Franco-Prussian War, the rise of the proletariat, and the metamorphosis of sport from leisure activity of the rich to spectator event for the poor, Mark sets up the conflict inherent in doping that perfectly reflects the conflict, until now unidentified in me, between an activity — bike racing — that is based on the contradictory notions of fair play and on doing anything it takes to win.

As the book progresses, Mark unleashes the full brunt of his amazingly catholic reading diet, cruising through Hitler’s impact on sports marketing to the pharmacology of amphetamines and steroids to the global politics of Cold War conflict to the Nixon-Ehrlichman War on Drugs to Reagan and the Contras to Peter Ueberroth and the Salt Lake City fraudsters to Orrin Hatch and the FDA to Amgen and EPO and the social context of drugs themselves, from Viagra in the bedroom to Adderall in the classroom to Mark McGwire to the arch-doping villain Lance himself.

If any book could make you pump both fists in the air and praise doping, this book would be it, although that’s hardly its premise or its moral. Rather, “Spitting in the Soup” is a trip down Introspection Lane. Why do we compete? Why do we have rules? How can we have spectacle in sport without extremity? How can we expect athletes to attack the system that creates, enriches, then sustains them?

And of all the introspective alleys that Mark takes you down, none is narrower or richer than reflecting on how we demonize the dopers even as we demand that they dope. Because this is what Lance and Jonathan and David and Floyd said all along–“We only gave you what you wanted.”

Whether that is what any one individual wanted is open to dispute. But “Spitting in the Soup” makes clear that from legislation to global politics to the nature of competition in general and cycling in particular, society as a whole really does want its athletes to dope. And as Mark makes brutally clear, doping is what we want for ourselves as well, higher, faster, stronger lives that let us set world records in our own heads and on Strava, and that let us perform better at work, in school, and between the sheets.

Thankfully, the book doesn’t end by giving up on the notion that life can be wonderful with fewer drugs rather than more. To the contrary, even if we can’t achieve moral purity, even if we have to doctor up our shit to get through the day, even if we can’t be like Mike or Usain or Greg or Chris without boatloads of drugs, that doesn’t mean that an endless injection of substances is a good substitute for effort, rules, and the journey involved in getting the best out of the meatbag we were born in.

Although I would have never thought that a book about doping could make a person as genuinely horrible as Lance Armstrong look sympathetic, “Spitting in the Soup” helps transform him from monster into an ordinary jerk who, in a world that demanded spectacle, gave it to us in spades. And it makes much more sympathetic people like Floyd Landis, Ben Johnson, Barry Bonds, and any number of other athletes hung out to dry as doping pariahs. Devoid of Lance’s shithead personality, they were nothing more or less than people who played by the rules, or rather by The Rule: Do what it takes to win, and don’t get caught.

Even as the fair play notion, the don’t cheat notion, the don’t use chemicals notion balances on a knife edge, Mark kicks it over the side by making the point that we have already entered a world where performance enhancement may one day be decided before you were born, when your parents and doctor carefully scripted your genes to ensure that you were better endowed than the fetus next door. Did you dope because you inherited a big VO2 max through a gene splice? Did you? Nor will these questions be subject to much ethical hemming and hawing by countries like China, which are on the cutting edge of gene doping research. Like their East German forebears, if the name of the game is winning, don’t talk to me about playing nice.

In a few short months Lance will get tried in federal court under the False Claims Act. A verdict for the government will ruin him financially, and if that happens many a doping crusader will rejoice. As “Spitting in the Soup” makes clear, the narrative of the superstar athlete is only complete when he falls from grace, because without fallen angels we’d have no need for saviors to take their place. Yet no matter how unappealing Lance is as a human being, and no matter how egregiously he flouted the rules and The Rule, this book makes an almost airtight case that the cheater, the faker, the liar, the hypocrite, and the doper … is you.

END

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Racers, start your calendars!

August 4, 2017 § 10 Comments

A bad idea born of febrile minds, the annual South Bay Cycling Awards, a/k/a The Wankies, staggers along towards a milestone few thought possible and even fewer wanted: The Fifth Showing Up of the Emaciated, an award ceremony so fraught with ridiculousness, bad taste, and beer that it was refused a venue by 37 different proprietors.

Whether it was half-naked crossfit dancers, a terrible comedian, or simply too many people crammed into a stuffy bar next to a wharf, the Wankies set a mark every year for lowness and embarrassment. Who can ever forget the revelers who stumbled through the streets of Manhattan Beach in 2014 with an inflated six-foot penis?

In any event, the event is here again, and through bribery, cajoling, lies, and promises to help teach Joel how to change a flat, the South Bay Cycling Awards again holds its awesome ceremony at Strand Brewing in Torrance, thanks to the patience, forbearance, kindness, understanding, and slightly addled judgment of Rich Marcello and Joel Elliott.

This year the event is dedicated to Steve Tilford, who will also be posthumously inducted into the South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame. Food and drink will be served free of charge as long as supplies last. There’s no fee for admission, but when the venue fills up people will be turned away. Arrive past 5:00 PM at your peril. You can expect another amazing crop of jealous cyclists all vying for awards in the following useless and misbegotten categories:

Greatest Advocate
Best Bike Shop
Best Young Rider
Best Old Rider
Most Improved
Best Club
Best Event
Wanker of the Year
Belgian Award
Group Ride Champion
Best Sponsor
Best Male Racer
Best Female Racer
GC Award
Greatest Recovery
Strava KOM
Most Happy to Help others
Most Fun
Best Spouse/SO
Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year

Unlike past years, when victims were forced to listen to me prattle non-stop for hours on end, this year I’ll be sharing announcing duties with Rahsaan Bahati, who promises to bring a (small) measure of class, professionalism, humor, and good taste to this otherwise profane event.

As in past years, sponsors will be given direct access to a market containing dozens of people who on a per capita basis spend up to $75 a year on bicycling related equipment, less when you include the haggling. Sponsors for 2017 include:

Velo Club LaGrange: Purveyors of fine bicycling.
South Bay Wheelmen: Purveyors of fine Manhattan Beach Grand Prixs
Meta Design Works: Purveyors of fine graphics
Performance Bicycle: Purveyors of fine parts.
JoJe Bars: Purveyors of fine bike food.
Echelon ColorEchelon Color: Making colors from light.
Wend Wax: Makes your nasty chain sparkly clean, butter smooth.
BonkBreaker: Purveyors of fine bike food who compete with other purveyors of fine bike food.
Base Cartel: Purveyors of socks and bike attire. Not tires.
BeachBody: Purveyors of amazing supplement stuff.
MTW: Purveyors of fitness, training, and Charon’s legs.
Little Giant: Purveyors of socks and bike attire who will make you look bikish.
FFWD: Purveyors of fine carbon wheels that are 100% carbon.
BWR: Purveyors of fine pain, aged in oaken barrels.

Here, then, are the details:

 

END

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Idiot gets ticket punched

August 2, 2017 § 26 Comments

Almost two months ago I wrote about James Doyle, local buffoon, jerk, kook, pinhead, fool, tool, dunderhead, tosser, wanker, clod, goof, whackjob, lameass, numbskull, numbnuts, jackass, and all-round horrible person, and I wrote about him here.

James knocked down John Walsh in a bike race. John got badly hurt. A video camera captured James’s maneuver. A hue-and-cry ensued. And yesterday USAC suspended Doyle for one year and put him on the Bad Boy List. This basically means that if he pulls this crap again he can have his license revoked, even if it happens in a non-competitive venue.

Since I know the victim personally it feels really good to learn that the aggressor got punished. A lot of people think the punishment wasn’t nearly stiff enough, and they’re right. I was suspended for a year back in 1986 for simply cursing out the officials and writing mean letters to the USCF protesting my punishment. If you could get a year’s suspension for causing butthurt, you should be able to get a lifetime ban for almost killing someone.

Still, it’s progress after a fashion. Who can forget the way that USAC has historically ignored this type of attack? In 2011, Rahsaan Bahati was deliberately crashed out at the Dana Point Grand Prix. The video is breathtaking. After being knocked down, Bahati, the victim, was fined and suspended for throwing his glasses at the pack in anger. Rest assured that USAC didn’t take two months to render its decision.

The rider who crashed Bahati out received no penalty at all, even though the whole thing was on video and is one of the most brazen examples of evil and malicious bike riding I had ever seen prior to the Doyle takedown. Check the video here if you don’t believe me. Seconds 39-42 are unbelievable, but not as unbelievable as the fact that the rider who got punished was Bahati.

 

In any event, it’s encouraging to see that USAC is finally willing to take some responsibility for policing the hostile and dangerous riders in its ranks; what’s discouraging is that there is hardly anyone left anymore in the ranks. The Doyle-Walsh takedown sent a loud message to racers, and a screamingly loud message to their significant others: It’s not worth it. Doyle may have a year off the bike, but Walsh has injuries that will take a very long time to heal.

Those grand fondues and fun rides keep looking better. And better. And better.

END

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Bridge bike

August 1, 2017 § 40 Comments

I once had a friend when I lived in Colorado named Calamity Jones. That wasn’t his name. His name was Sam. But we all called him Calamity because no matter what he did, he did it wrong. He couldn’t piss his name in the snow without getting his feet wet.

Calamity was the nicest guy. He was a great skier, too, one of the best on the mountain I worked at, Keystone. But even skiing he was always getting hurt. One time he fell off the chairlift and broke both legs.

Another time, in the summer, he went mushroom hunting and came back with a harvest. “Psilocybin,” he said, and tried to give them away. But no one would take one because it was Calamity. “You first,” we said.

They were poisonous, of course, and he wound up at the ER in Dillon getting his stomach pumped. He almost died.

Calamity caused a bad traffic accident coming down Loveland Pass once. He got a DUI. He forged a check. He and a buddy tried to rob the safe at Keystone by crawling through a duct late at night, but they were too heavy and fell through the ceiling and both got arrested and both did prison time. I have no idea what happened to him, but he was a good person, the kindest guy, and things never worked out for him. At the pivotal moment he always chose wrong.

This guy had a lot of friends but he didn’t have any way to get through his troubles. He had no way across from his good intentions to good actions. He had no bridge.

I have another friend who is nothing at all like Calamity Jones, but he is a guy who, like everyone else I suppose, has had his share of hard times. He’s a good guy who took a couple of left turns when maybe he should have gone right, but unlike Calamity he got things straightened out, and a lot of the straightening he did with a bike.

He got himself sober and the bike kept him there. He lost a bunch of weight and made a bunch of friends. The bike gave him something to do with his free time after work that didn’t involve hanging out at the bar or hanging out around drunks. He bought a bunch of bikes and rode pretty good. But more important than his cycling prowess, he was friendly and fun to be around. If you flatted he always stopped and if you got dropped he usually hung back and waited for you. He always had an extra tube, too, and an extra CO2 canister.

Then he quit riding his bike. You see, he has a young son and he figured that as much as he liked riding his bike, he liked hanging out with his son and being a dad a whole lot more. Way, way more.

The last time I saw him was at a party. A bunch of people were standing around talking with him, and they were all cyclists, and they were peppering him with unasked for advice about how to get back on the bike.

“You need to do easier rides,” they said.

“Get a ‘cross bike,” they said, because the solution to any problem is n+1.

“Have you tried MTB? No cars!” they said, even though he’d never mentioned being bothered by traffic.

Finally, a couple of people started listing all the great things about cycling and about what a strong rider he was and what a shame it was to give all that up. He smiled politely and listened but he didn’t appear swayed.

I said a few words to him before he left. “You’re over it, huh?”

“Yeah, I’m over it.”

“Everything okay?” I asked.

“Everything’s great. My boy’s only going to be young once. I’ve got my priorities straightened out and he’s it.”

I knew what he meant. For some people the bike is an obsession. For some it’s a status symbol. For some it’s a holy health grail. For some it’s a vocation. For some it’s a pressure release valve. For some it’s a lifestyle. For some it’s a political/environmental/social statement. For some it’s transportation and for some it’s an escape.

But for some people it’s a bridge that gets you across troubled waters. And when you’re on the other side you realize you don’t need it anymore, and you keep on pedaling through life, better off without it.

END

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